Grado HF2 Review

The Grado HF2. The 2nd Head-Fi special edition headphone released for the head-fi community. They were announced on the 30th May at a price of $429. These headphones consist of a wood chamber and a metal housing, a combination only present on the Grado PS1000 ($1695) and they were described as “Baby PS1000s” I had ordered these headphones on the 14th July and after 3 months of waiting, I finally received them. 524 units were made, making them quite rare. I got one of the last 10 made, serial number 517. So when I was buying these, I was buying blind. I have never owned or heard a Grado before these and was a little bit nervous about the “comfort problems” and the “harsh sound” that people have experienced from Grados. I was reassured by people saying that these were one of the least bright sounding Grados. Enough of me giving a history lesson, let’s get into the review!

Just like in my Sennheiser HD800 review, I will review in several different categories but this time I think I’ll write about the sound in one long section rather than splitting it up into bass, midrange etc… But first, design and comfort.

Design and Comfort

Opened the box and I was slightly disappointed. Grado is infamously known for having poor quality control at times and it isn’t an exception on mine. There is overflowing glue on the wood chambers, there are watermarks on the metal cups itself and one tiny nick in the left cup. The only thing that really bothers me are the watermarks, but I’m planning on getting rid of that with some non abrasive metal polish.

If you haven’t noticed, these say “GRADO HEAD-F1 HEADPHONES” instead of “HEAD-FI” This was a problem due to the engraver Grado used… The first 24 Grado HF2s at CanJam were “HEAD-FI” but complaints of “blurry cups” meant Grado changed engravers. The other 500 had the typo of the F1. Luckily, my text came out perfectly clear

But overall, I like the design of the Grado HF2s, it’s quite retro looking yet it has a sense of modern to it as well. I can understand why some people would question why they cost that much yet the looks are unattractive. It’s just a matter of personal preference I guess, as with every design there is to headphones.

The cups can swivel 360 degrees due to the rod design, yet there are no stoppers meaning they’ll just keep going till as long as the wire will stop twisting. This is pretty bad and I have to keep paying attention to the cups since the wire will twist. The wire is a chunky wire. It’s an 8 conductor cable, which is believed to be of high quality. The wood chamber is actually very nice. I believe it is mahogany like the RS2, RS1, GS1000 and PS1000.

Grados have tend to be known as uncomfortable due to the foam pads. These pads are just…foam. Just plain and simple foam. They are pretty soft to touch though, which is decent. I put these on my head and I find that I didn’t experience this pain that other users experience. I had a listen to them for 3 hours straight today, and after those 3 hours I found some discomfort on my ears. Not massive pain, just a slight numbness. The headband is surprisingly pretty good. It’s a simple metal band lined with leather. It’s sturdy on the head and is relatively comfortable. I can’t actually find any faults to the headband, it seems to be perfect. Other than the pads and maybe the weight of the metal cups, I think they are relatively comfortable.

Remember these are of an open back design, meaning sound will leak out and sound will get in. Isolation wise on these are mediocre. When your music is playing, it drones out most of background noise decently. Obviously these aren’t meant to be used for portable use, and I am not going outside with these on because I look terrible with these on!

The Sound

This review will be based on the following setup.
MacBook –> Grado HF2s (50 hours burnt in)
I will be using the following albums just to get an idea of what types of music these Grados suit.

  • Utada Hikaru – Heart Station (J-Pop)
  • Utada Hikaru – Ultra Blue (J-Pop)
  • Metallica – Master of Puppets (Metal)
  • System of A Down – Toxicity (Metal)
  • Owl City – Ocean Eyes (Pop)
  • Justice – Cross (House)
  • Daft Punk – Alive 2007 (House)
  • Muse – The Resistance (Rock)
  • Kasabian – Empire (Indie Rock)
  • Jimmy Reed – Jimmy Reed At Carnegie Hall (Blues)
  • High and Mighty Color – Go Over (Pop/Rock)
  • London Symphony Orchestra – The Classic Experience (Classical)

A mix of pop, electronic, rock, blues and classical. 320kbps and ALAC.

Out of the box, plugged these in and played some Utada Hikaru, one of my favourite artists by far (KrayZieAsSPiNoy should know that ) What shocked me were the vocals. Brilliant vocals, really wasn’t expecting something to come out from that. It feels as if she is actually singing right next to your ear and it’s absolutely gorgeous. The soundstage was rather small and quite horizontal. It was wide on the sides but right in your head when it came back into the middle. It is hard to get an incredibly forward sound with a good soundstage as well, so it’ll do. It’s not as if it’s just a wall of sound, so I can cope with that as well. The treble wasn’t harsh at all! It wasn’t all in your face but you can definitely hear all the sparkles from her songs such as Beautiful World. The detail is good, not as good as the Sennheiser HD800 of course, but that was expected. Bass seemed to hit hard at first, but after 50 hours of burn in it seemed to calm down. The bass is not overdone at all, but out of the box I actually thought it had more bass compared to my Sennheiser IE8s. I was wrong. The IE8s sound veiled, lacked detail and musicality. It just felt boring to me. Owl City also sounded brilliant, as much as it did with Utada Hikaru. The bass was deep and it wasn’t short on impact. The electronic synths sounded very good and the overall sound was just exciting to listen to.

I then decided to try some Jimi Hendrix, System of a Down and some Metallica. Again, that midrange really stood out. The crunchiness of the guitar, the plucking of the guitar strings. It really makes the experience amazing and I don’t think I’ve ever heard guitar like this on any other headphone before. The small soundstage and the forward sound makes you feel like you are actually on the stage. The PRaT is incredible, the decay is short and the attack is quick. They are very aggressive and the main genre these suit has to be rock for me. Also electric guitar solos sound quick and detailed, yet none sounded too bright to me. They just sound like nothing else I’ve heard before. There were no exception with Kasabian and Muse, they sounded brilliant.

For rock, the bass wasn’t overwhelming and it didn’t really stand out much since the guitars did, but once I listened to some Justice, the bass just stood out so much it was confusing. I wasn’t expecting that much bass to come out, and I thought it made it sound fun! Sometimes I do like bass for some genres but usually I found that when there was so much bass for this particular genre, there was so much bass for the other genre and the other sounded terrible. The treble energy really stood out for these two artists and I think treble energy as well as bass is needed for house to sound nice…well for me anyway.

Lastly I tried some blues, then some classical. I found that the harmonica used Bright Lights, Big City was on the edge of becoming too bright for my ears. It seemed average, nothing amazing compared to rock and metal on these. Classical was also a bit of a disappointment, I think you really need something with a much bigger soundstage to enjoy classical. Songs I tested included Canon in D Major by Pachelbel, Turkish Rondo by Mozart and Bolero by Ravel.


I am loving these, they have such an staggering sound that gets my feet tapping and enjoying the music. They are also such a rare item that it adds a priceless value on top of that. I’m sure that in the future, I will still have these. Now to wait for Migui to post his review

Happy Listening!


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